In the rugged back country of Yellowwood State Forest, nature lovers will find some of the least disturbed wilderness in Indiana.

Campers, hikers, backpackers and hunters can find endangered and threatened wildlife roaming through the towering trees and thick underbrush.

So when government officials announced plans to sell 299 acres of the forest for logging, the backlash was swift and vocal.

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The battle between government and nature-lovers over this wild swath of land is the focus of a new documentary by Brown County-based filmmakers John and Hannah Boggs. Their film’s premiere will be the centerpiece of this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, an event sponsored by the Indiana Forest Alliance to showcase environmental efforts from throughout Indiana and around the world.

Organizers of the festival, scheduled for Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, hope it will seize on the activist energy building in support of Indiana’s natural places and inspire even more people to fight for them.

“We have gotten a huge amount of interest in forest protection this year,” said Sandra Messner, outreach director for the Indiana Forest Alliance. “Public sentiment is really behind this idea, and we really wanted to use this event as a way to address this issue that seems to be on everybody’s mind.”

Environmental awareness is building in Indiana, Messner said. Last February, more than 800 people packed the statehouse, imploring government leaders to better protect forests and other natural areas.

The Yellowwood issue has become a particularly visible rallying point for people. Yellow and blue “Save Yellowwood” signs have popped up in yards and along roadsides throughout the state, including in Johnson County.

“In our nation, we’re struggling right now with the idea that our public lands are in danger. Business interests seem to be winning out over the protection of our environment, which is making a lot of people concerned,” Messner said. “The Yellowwood battle is something people to do to protect their local lands on a very localized scale. People are so energized by this, it really feels like we can make a difference.”

That interest and energy is evident in the lead-up to the film festival this year, where more people are buying tickets and more businesses getting involved as sponsors than ever before, Messner said.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is an event started by the South Yuba River Citizens League in 2003 to spotlight aspects of the environmental movement through film. The success of the California-based festival drew requests from organizations around the country, so organizers have taken a selection of the year’s films on tour each year, to spread the impact of it.

The Indiana Forest Alliance, a nonprofit group protecting the state’s forests, has been hosting the tour in Indiana for the past three years. Initially a more straightforward film festival revolving around a night of screenings one after another, local organizers wanted to make the night more of an event, Messner said.

“We decided we wanted to have a more varied program, so we have five different musicians who will be performing for us. And we really wanted to focus part of our program on local films about local environmental issues,” she said.

The Boggs’ film about Yellowwood is the main component of that effort. But other local films tell unique Hoosier stories involving the environment.

“Faces of the Forest” is the story of three Indiana residents and their connection to the state’s forests. “White River Stories” weaves together the impact the titular river has on people’s lives, while “Little Warriors” spotlights a group of Indianapolis kids who successfully inspired governments throughout the state to adapt a youth-driven climate recovery resolution.

The festival also will include selections from around the world. “Pale Blue Dot” takes astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous words and pairs them with stunning natural images. “Selah: A Water from Stone” tells the story of a Texas Hill Country ranch restored to ecological balance.

“Still Falling” focuses on a young woman’s efforts to prevent deforestation in her home of Tasmania.

“A lot of these films talk about people who disagreed with what was going on around them and said that they weren’t going to allow this to happen,” Messner said. “That’s really inspiring to see on the local and international level, how people can band together to create change.”

Well-known musicians, including Americana mainstays such as Tom Roznowski, Cari Ray, Tim Grimm and the Hammer and the Hatchet, will perform in between showings of the short films.

Messner hopes that the film festival is just another step in greater public participation in environmental efforts statewide. The Indiana Forest Alliance is working with lawmakers to introduce a bill this year that will set aside and protect 30 percent of state forest land, up from the existing 10 percent.

A “Stand for Yellowwood” day has been planned for Tuesday at the Indiana statehouse, where organizers will help people organize and fight for state forests by speaking to their legislators.

“We hope that people feel inspired, that they get a better understanding of how much power they have to be activists on the local level,” Messner said. “I would like people coming to the festival feel energized to take those steps to help do this.”

If you go

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

What: A night of music and environmentally focused films looking at local and international efforts to protect natural areas.

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington

Who: The event is hosted by the Indiana Forest Alliance, a nonprofit group aimed at defending the state’s wooded areas.

Tickets: $25 for adults, $15 for youths under 18 and students with ID


5 p.m.: Door open, with refreshments from The Big Cheeze food truck.

5:30 p.m.

  • Music by the Hammer and the Hatchet
  • Film: “Pale Blue Dot” (4 minutes)
  • Film: “The Wild President” (7 min.)
  • Music by Tim Grimm
  • Film: “The Living Forest” (10 min.)
  • Film: “Selah: A Water from Stone” (8 min.)
  • Music by Tom Roznowski
  • Film: “Still Falling” (15 min.): In the jungles of Tasmania, a young woman risks it all to protect the place she loves most from rampant deforestation.

6:45 p.m.

  • Film: “Faces of the Forest” (4 min.)
  • Film: “White River Stories” (6 min.)
  • Music by Cari Ray
  • Film: “Little Warriors” (15 min.)
  • Music by Malcolm Dalglish
  • Film: Yellowwood State Forest documentary by John and Hannah Boggs (15 min.)


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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.